On 26 November 2015 the new German law against corruption (Gesetz zur Bekämpfung der Korruption) entered into force. It transposes both European legislation and the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption of the Council of Europe. The law expands existing anti-corruption provisions of the German Criminal Code and also significantly expands the existing criminal provisions on money laundering.

Germany failed to pass a similar law in 2006, due to intra-parliamentary resistance, but the new law picked up on, and even exceeded, the former legislative proposal.

The key changes are -

  • The extension of relevant predicate offences for money laundering;
  • The abolishment of the exemption from punishment for cases of self-money laundering;
  • The extension of the scope of anti-corruption laws to include "European public officials" and foreign public officials;
  • Stricter/extended anti-corruption laws relating to corruption in the private sector.

The new law leads to an extension of the catalogue of relevant predicate offences for money laundering. This is of interest in terms of anti-money laundering compliance because the range of predicate offences for money laundering under the German Criminal Code includes (from 26th November 2015) trans-boundary corruption and corruption in the private sector (see below).

Most importantly, the amendment of the German Criminal Code also makes cases of so-called ‘self-money laundering' a punishable offence. Previously offenders who laundered money acquired in the context of their own crimes had been exempted but they are now caught by the law against corruption.

The German legislator extended the scope of the existing anti-corruption laws to cover EU officials and persons who are entrusted with fulfilling duties of the EU or its institutions. An entirely new criminal offence was introduced that criminalizes active and passive corruption of foreign public officials.

There are also changes to the territorial scope of anti-corruption laws relating to offences committed in public office. In particular, the German Criminal Code now applies to offences committed by a German citizen abroad or by European public officials who have their office in Germany.

As regards corruption in the private sector, the existing criminal provisions were extended to include cases in which corrupt practices lead (merely) to a violation of the duties of employees vis-à-vis their employers. Previously, corrupt behaviour in the private sector was only punishable in cases which involved competitive distortions (i.e. "unfair preferences in the competitive purchase of goods or commercial services").